By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Because you just might get it.
And late Sunday night …
… Andrade got it.
A handful of weeks after it was first reported that he asked for his release from WWE, Andrade received it and tweeted “Good news!!!! Buenas noticias!!! #Tranquilo #Happy.” And so, as it turns out, perhaps happiness is a fish that you can catch. Or, at least if that fish is a WWE contract you want to get out of before it expires.
It almost seems like a prerequisite now. Come to WWE. Maybe start in NXT. Thrive in NXT. Get to Raw or Smackdown. Wrestle a few matches. Maybe even shoot a small angle. Get taken off TV. Air some frustrations on Twitter. Ask for your release. Get denied. A couple weeks pass. Bam. Your release is granted and the Internet Wrestling Community proclaims how much better off you are because you’re free from the hell that is World Wrestling Entertainment.
But are you? Why is it that out of all the workplaces in the world, WWE is the only one that isn’t allowed to have a hierarchy? Why do we always have to look at what we don’t see rather than focus on what’s already in front of our eyes? While it sounds ridiculous — because the company has five hours of television space each week — there’s a lot that those television shows have to accomplish and move forward every time it takes to the air, and because the company is overflowing with talent, some weeks, that talent isn’t going to be featured on TV.
Sure, we all want to be main eventers, and no matter if you’re a janitor, a doctor or a barber, we all want to be the best of the lot. But, well, as it goes, we’re not. Some of us might be good at what we do — very good, even. But are we at the top of the card? No. Do we make the most money? No. That’s the reality for 99 percent of us. So, should we quit our job at T-Mobile to go work at AT&T, because we think at AT&T, we’ll be used more appropriately?
Think about it. If Andrade was in the mix on television each week, who would you take off? Riddle? Daniel Bryan? Cesaro? How about the time when everyone was clamoring for Mustafa Ali to get a push? He got one. Has anyone focused on the opportunity he was given, even if he was saddled with the garbage fire that is (or was) Retribution? No. Instead, we just find the next wrestler we think is getting a raw deal.
And that’s the thing …
EVERYBODY CAN’T ALWAYS BE HAPPY
There are always going to be wrestlers getting a raw deal.
None of this is to say Andrade isn’t extremely talented. And none of it is to suggest that it wasn’t a shame to not see him used more often and in more prominent roles after getting called up from NXT. But let’s look back at the now-infamous list of wrestlers that were let go almost a year to the day after the COVID-19 pandemic initially set in.
If you recall, there were names on that list that had asked for their releases beforehand anyway. The most famous was Rusev (now Miro). We’ve been over that in this column before. He thought he deserved better and all the fans agreed with him. Now, he’s flailing away in the middle of the card without much direction at WWE’s most famous current competitor. He also wound up in another wrestling wedding, and if you gotta go through more than one of those in your career … well, that’s not ideal.
Lio Rush did all he publicly could do to poke the bear for months before he got his release. I’m still not sure if popping up on New Japan Strong and MLW Fusion every now and then is all that much better than managing who is now the WWE World Champion, though Rush does have an entertainment career outside of pro wrestling. EC3 headed back to Impact for a cup of coffee, then immediately went over to Ring of Honor to do … not much? Yet, at least. The Bennetts, Mike and Maria, seem happier — and maybe that’s the only thing that really matters, though all I have to go on is a handful of social media posts and a couple podcast episodes — but I often forget they even exist because I can’t keep track of where they are.
It’s all to say this: What exactly are we rooting for?
Are we rooting for wrestlers we think are undervalued to get a shot? Because if we are, they got a shot — just getting to WWE is a hell of an accomplishment in and of itself. Are we rooting for wrestlers to have some type of ambiguously perceived freedom, where they can finally “be who they want to be?” Well, Heath Slater went over to Impact, lost his last name, yet is still playing Heath Slater, so perhaps freedom isn’t the answer for everybody. Or are we just clapping back at the biggest wrestling conglomerate on the planet because it’s the biggest wrestling conglomerate on the planet?
That’s my best guess. And if that’s true …
… We all know by now that such a task is futile. Hate on WWE all you want. It doesn’t matter. Not to them, at least. Money keeps pouring in, absolute power becomes more absolute and if you want to make fun of the ratings, that’s fine, but those TV deals are locked in for a long time.
Where WWE is egregious, however, is the space that bleeds into a personal world outside the ring. Nobody can prove it, and WWE apologists will tell me I’m connecting dots that aren’t there, but at this point, I refuse to think that all the connections between releases, romantic partners and jumps to other companies are mere coincidences.
Lana goes through 20,839 tables after Rusev heads to AEW and tells Vince McMahon to kiss his ass. Zelina Vega wants to unionize and Aleister Black apparently got stuck underneath the floor the last time he tried to make his entrance because he’s nowhere to be found. And then this, the most recent oddity: Andrade publicly airs his grievances and who’s that on the WrestleMania poster? Wait. It’s not Charlotte anymore, now is it?
The place is like the mob. Take one wrong step, and they’re coming for your family. What surprises me the most is the Charlotte thing — she, I thought, was untouchable. And maybe she is. And maybe I’m making nothing into something. And maybe by the time this publishes, there will be a brand new WrestleMania poster with her face front and center on it.
But let’s just say those connections are only 10 percent accurate — and accurate in ways about which none of us even know. It’s still unforgivable. How can you justify these petty acts of revenge that take aim at a person’s career? If you’re romantically linked to somebody, and both of you work for WWE, imagine the extra stress that something like this could provide. Because let’s say you do want to go to work somewhere else and let’s say you do feel mistreated at WWE, but your partner is scared about you speaking up because your partner could be punished for it in some weird way. What are you supposed to do? Imagine the arguments this kind of stuff can initiate.
It’s why, as I wrote a few weeks ago, no one man should have all that power. But even so …
… You can’t tell me that the man had “Make Andrade Happy” on his daily agenda for the last three weeks. So where’s the failure?
Well, in my mind, the failure is shared. WWE had a good performer on its payroll and didn’t use him. What those reasons are for why that is, we’ll probably never know. Did Andrade deserve better? Maybe. Will Andrade receive better somewhere else?
That depends on how you define better. It’s the whole Rusev anecdote. Maybe he’s happier now, but you can’t convince me he’s at a better spot on the card working for AEW. So, then what’s better? Is it a more fulfilled life where you don’t feel like you are being held down? Or is it being in the world title mix for any promotion that will have you?
Whatever that personal definition is for anybody working in the professional wrestling business, I’m beginning to think it’s a moving target, which, in turn, puts WWE in impossible positions. Should they take the U.S. Title off of Matt Riddle so Andrade can be more prominent? How about the Intercontinental belt? Just when Big E is settling into his singles run … whoops, sorry, we have to make this other guy happy right now and this is all he’ll accept.
The decisions WWE brass has to make are far from easy and I don’t think anyone gives them the credit they deserve. Even if you don’t agree with many of their decisions, they are decisions that have so many layers to them, it’s hard to even fathom how some of this stuff gets done. We only judge what we see, and what we see is the end project. No matter how many times we read websites and insider tweets, the distance between what we think we know and what happens is much further than the naked eye can read.
Those decisions have the ability to fail people and they clearly do more often than not. What we do know is that they got it right with Bobby Lashley. They got it right with Drew McIntyre. They got it right with Roman Reigns … eventually. They are getting it right with Apollo Crews. They are getting it right with Big E. The list goes on and on. The problem is that we don’t focus on that list. Instead, we focus on the Andrade list. Because it’s easier to criticize, easier to connect back to how bad WWE is at everything from putting on television shows to treating its employees.
At this point, though, isn’t that list — the one Andrade just reminded us of — isn’t it becoming just a tiny bit boring?
PUTTING THE WORK IN
So, now what? Well, Andrade moves on with his life, and for now, he can claim happiness (what’s up with Charlotte, though, is the more intriguing question at this point). If there’s only one thing I hope doesn’t happen, it’s that he doesn’t get lost in the indie shuffle. Or, whatever the indie shuffle is these days — NWA, MLW, NJPW, ROH, etc. You just can’t convince me that showing up on Powerrr once a month, then Fusion every six weeks, and then ROH’s TV show a couple times a year is better than being on the WWE roster, even if you can’t catch a break.
But if that’s what Andrade wants, who am I to argue? It will be interesting to see if he does end up with AEW, because for all those people who are starting to get prickly about seeing too much ex-WWE talent on AEW television, this will be like throwing chum at the sharks. I’d like to see Andrade reunite with Zelina Vega because when that act was on, that act was on. Imagine those two working with Will Ospreay and Bea Priestly somewhere down the line. Wowzers.
No matter where Andrade lands, however, can we please let this case of a frustrated WWE wrestler publicly wiggling his way out of a contract be the last case of a frustrated WWE wrestler publicly wiggling his way out of a contract? At least for a while? Nobody wins, everyone looks just a little worse, and there’s no promise that the grass will be greener, no matter which neighborhood you choose.
So, be careful what you wish for, Andrade. Because you got it. And now the real work begins.